10 Tips To Raise Situational Awareness On A Call

10 Tips To Raise Situational Awareness On A Call

Wednesday, 17 April 2024 15:14

Firefighters and paramedics work each day to keep our communities safe. Every time they respond to a call, whether it be a wildfire raging in a remote mountain range, an apartment complex fire, or a vehicle accident, they can immediately place themselves in a dangerous situation.

Some situations are very evident, like rush hour traffic on a major interstate near the scene of a wreck or an approaching wildfire that threatens to overtake the fire engine. However, many more threats are everywhere and at times not easily discernible, such as a rattlesnake near the fireline, a hornet's nest, a downed electric pole, or hazardous chemicals smoldering in a back room.

During any incident, the primary priority should always be the safety of the crews and the public, and constant situational awareness of all factors during an incident is a must. Still, at an ever-changing incident, this can sometimes be very challenging to maintain.

This article discusses basic tips for raising situational awareness before and during an emergency. 

Ten Tips To Raise Situational Awareness During An Emergency Call

Good situational awareness is the cornerstone of good decision-making. Leaders can increase their decision-making space by attaining and maintaining situational awareness. Decision space is when a decision-maker must consider options before reaching a required decision point.

Good situational awareness of any incident starts way before the actual call itself. Proper situational awareness is a frame of mind that emergency responders have to train themselves to be proficient in. However, there are many things that a firefighter can do before and during an emergency call to raise their situational awareness and ensure that they can return safely to base when the call is complete.

Ten overriding principles can affect the situational awareness of individual firefighters and paramedics or across an entire incident. They are:

1. Ensure That You Have Proper Training

Before a firefighter or paramedic responds to their first incident, the agency and leadership are responsible for ensuring they are properly and adequately trained. They should know their jobs and be fully aware of the hazards they will likely face.

2. Actively Engage in the Situational Awareness Cycle During The Call

The situational awareness cycle is a system firefighters and paramedics can constantly use while performing their duties. Each individual must take responsibility for continually engaging in the cycle for themselves, and each leader does the same for their crew, from the engine captain to the incident commander for the entire incident.

3. Make Sure That Communication Throughout The Chain Of Command Is Working

Lack of effective communication can cause people to be hurt or killed. Effective two-way communication must be in effect throughout the incident 

4. Conduct A Briefing At The Beginning Of The Shift

Ensuring that the crew is ready to perform their tasks for the shift is important. This time can be taken to check up on each crew member and ensure they are physically and mentally ready to do their jobs before a call happens. Then, any problems that affect work during an emergency can be handled before an active call.

5. Do An Inspection Of Equipment At The Start Of A Shift

All equipment must be regularly checked to ensure that it is in proper working order before it is needed in an emergency situation. Maintaining appropriate situational awareness during an emergency is difficult when everything is happening simultaneously. You can make that easier by having equipment that is working properly.

6. Take The Time To Do A Proper Sizeup Of The Scene On Arrival

When you first arrive at a scene, you may succumb to the urge to jump right in to tackle the emergency, whether a brush fire, house fire, or vehicle accident. But by doing so, you will not have adequate situational awareness and will most likely miss something important to everyone’s safety. It only takes a few seconds to review the scene and gather the necessary information. 

7. Do Follow-Up Sizeups Throughout The Incident

You should develop a system where you or someone on the crew step back and size up the entire incident to ensure that the tactics utilized work and everyone’s safety is maintained. This is an essential part of the overall situational awareness cycle, but it is often overlooked due to the excitement and challenges of taking care of an emergency.

8. Implement LCES

LCES is a safety system primarily utilized in the wildland fire community; however, it applies to all firefighting disciples in one form or another. The acronym stands for:

  • Lookouts: Set proper lookouts or safety personnel to oversee operations
  • Communications: Make sure everyone has adequate communication with each other
  • Escape Routes: Make sure everyone has an escape route if something goes wrong
  • Safety Zones: Designate adequate safety zones that can be reached from the escape routes.

Before beginning any firefighting, all four of these factors must be checked and planned for. During the incident, LCES must be maintained as needed to ensure the continued safety of all crews. By organizing and implementing the LCES  safety system, you will continually raise your situational awareness.

9. Conduct An After Action Review

As soon as it is safe to do so, you should conduct a review of the itinerary to ensure that you have completed everything that needs to be done. During the review, you can also see what worked and what didn't work. This will help you have better situational awareness on the next similar type of call.

10. Utilize Software Developed By Streetwise

With an all-in-one system like StreetWise, you can be confident your department’s response will improve. For first responders, you know, every single second matters. You need every advantage to save time.  Our software improves life-saving situational awareness that can save the lives of your firefighters and those you are helping. 

StreetWise® Provides Software to Improve the Situation Awareness of Your Crews

StreetWise® is a public safety information services company in Terrell, North Carolina. StreetWise is an elite group of progressive, like-minded investors, managers, technical developers, and advisors that form the parent company, Hangar 14 Solutions, LLC.

Their close and ongoing career experience with public safety led to the development of this project concept. Hangar 14 Solutions has identified the gap in getting critical response information to emergency personnel.

StreetWise can assist you with developing pre-incident plans and provide advanced software to improve your crew's situational awareness. If you would like more information on the services offered by StreetWise, check out our products or reach out for a free demonstration